A floating fish grinder fueled by the river
is the innovative idea that has become a reality for Alexandra West a former UAA student. She used her upbringing on the Kenai River as her focus to
s the innovative idea that has become a reality for Alexandra West a former UAA student. She used her upbringing on the Kenai River as her focus to develop the hydro-powered system to help minimize the bear problems while at the same time keeping the ecosystem intact.
“There is a lot of bear and human interaction in that area; so having to be aware of that we had looked at many different ways to deal with the bears.”
Fish guts and pieces are an easy food for the bears and their cubs; West says she had seen many disposal options tried but fail.
“They talked about packing the fish out whole, but salmon have really important marine nutrients, so keeping that in the ecosystem is important. They decided they couldn’t pack them out whole, so the agency’s suggested that they chop them up into pieces and throw them back. They also used hand grinders and different things, which none seemed to work.”
Her idea is to have the fish carcass disposal system attached to fillet tables along the river; especially where the Russian and Kenai Rivers meet. It is one of Alaska’s busiest fishing spots, bringing as many as 150,000 people each summer.
“The fisherman can throw the fish carcass onto a slide; it would go into the hopper and get ground up and be discharged back into the river. The quick current of the river will disperse it out into the water. So it keeps the nutrients in the system, but it also chops up the carcasses into small enough pieces so it isn’t a big attractant to the bears.”
West says it benefits the fishermen, the river, and the bears.
“In areas where waste is an issue, bears being attracted to this and being close to humans makes people uncomfortable. There have been a lot of bears either hazed or put down in defense of life or property. So it will help people, it will help the ecosystem, and will help other wildlife. It could help clean up areas too.”
West is the first student inventor to get a patent through the university. A senior design class is refining her project in hopes of having them out on Alaska’s rivers in the near future.